A survey gathers information from a representative sample of people and applies the results to the larger population. You don’t need to taste an entire pot of soup to know how it tastes. The same applies to understanding the needs, perceptions, and satisfaction of your members. You seek the opinions of a representative portion of the membership and extrapolate from there.
Begin the process by determining the survey’s purpose. What goals will it help you achieve? What objectives do you have in mind? What type of data do you need to collect, and how would you use it? Let your answers to these questions be your guide in survey development. For a member survey, your goals might include:
• understanding your members’ current challenges and headaches
• satisfaction with your association’s ability to solve these problem
• importance and satisfaction with current offerings
• overall satisfaction / likelihood of renewing
Keep your questions brief, simple and relevant. Organize them in a logical order. Use language which will be easily understood by your members. Try to think from their perspective:
• will they stay engaged
• comprehend your questions
• be willing to share their insights?
Use open-ended questions sparingly. Answering them takes time and requires your respondents to be thoughtful. Moreover, you would need to code (find and assign common themes) and analyze their responses. A good approach is to ask open-ended questions as a follow-up for gaining more insights, when you can’t predict what the possible answers might include.
Think about the wording and sequence of your questions. Avoid using emotionally coloured words, which might lead your respondents towards a particular opinion. Also avoid “leading the witness”, for example, “What is your attitude to your organizations’s well-thought-out compensation strategy”?
Even the sequence of questions can influence the results. For example, you might ask about respondents’ income levels first, which makes them think about money. This could colour their response on, say, their likelihood of making a large expenditure.
Avoid making this mistake: asking double-barrelled questions. For example, do you support your organization’s vacation and compensation policy? Your members might have a positive attitude to one and negative views on the other.
Keep in mind that online surveys are self-administered, which means your respondents can’t ask you to clarify a particular word or question. Make it easy for them to understand.
Finally, all questions should be necessary and relevant. Don’t make respondents feel overwhelmed, as fatigue decreases their concentration and level of engagement.
In our next blog post we’ll give you some key questions that you can use in your next member survey.